Managing Your Team in a Time of Overload

Presented by Piotr Nabielec at IT Matters Conference ONLINE

Video hosting kindly provided by Mux - video for developers


These transcripts were generated by a machine and checked-over by a human for accuracy. Still, there may be small errors. If you spot any, please feel free to submit a pull request with amendments.

Thank you for nice introduction, I'll try to quickly cover the topic of managing your team in a time of overload. productivity is my topic to say. And to just a reminder how fast things go right now, not so long ago and not so far away in a galaxy, we have this. And this means, like I was calling the internet, maybe you remember these times, with four kilobytes per second. And then we had 20 years ago, Nokia, one of the first phones and remember, no internet connection, no Instagram on it, no Facebook, and then 2008- 2009, the first iPhone and the the smartphone era. So imagine 12 years ago, nobody actually woke up and check the mail or Instagram or Facebook because they were non existent. So, so this is how fast things change. And also this reality, which is being in the office, this is just a normal picture. But right now, it seems like some superpowers, people sitting in one room. So things change very fast. And we need some simple tools to manage this simple times, very complex times. And time is like my obsession. This is Warren Buffett, his estimated wealth is 770 billion dollars right now. And in one of his famous interviews, he says, I can buy anything I want, basically, until he knows what he says. But then he adds, but I can't buy time. So the time is actually the most precious resource. And it's much more valuable than than money. And so, as Crystal mentioned, I'm [unintelligable] and I run mostly my business in Polish. But I also had, I have development background, this is my early, like 2008-2009 software development activities with Jerry who's on the picture. And then I started creating courses, which is, which are online courses and classroom courses. This is Udemy course the only thing in English I have right now. But most of what I want to share with you is from this course ,this is in Polish, habit formation course, it's over 1000 people, and 250 people went through that course, in COVID time, so March and May this year. And so I hope I go with people over a 30 day period and, and follow them and help them and we have like 30 lessons.

And so I'd like to share a few insights with you that I learned from from other people that worked. So what is interesting 92% of people actually finished the course, which is an online course, which is, I heard, pretty amazing result. And it also marks the journey of people from day one to day 30 when actually this is what you need to talk about habits. So when we talk about productivity, let's talk about how to provide value with some effort. And then increasing productivity means increasing value without increasing effort, or you're actually having the same value but lowering the effort, that would be the ultimate goal to actually increase the value we get from less effort that will be that will be something that that I'd like to work on. And so I'd like to share with you a few concepts that usually help people a lot, especially in such turbulant times, the first concept is four types of time. And then let's talk about few deep needs in times of COVID that, are actually that, need to be taken care of. And then two very practical tools. I think this is a management of the four levels, especially when you talk with team this may be this may be very practical. And then four spheres of retrospective because a lot happens right now and a lot is going on. And we need some tools to reflect on what is going on and to also avoid burnout. And then at the end just few practical hints if you want to turn it into habits. And then just if you want to talk with me, there'll be time for q&a. I'll stay also in 'Gather Town', so hope you bear with me.

So four types of time. Usually when people talk about productivity, they mean achieving your goals. So you have tasks to achieve. You have meetings, there's an agenda. This is something, this is an end goal that you mark okay done and then you move on. That's That's how usually productivity is is thought about and then one of the most surprising things here is that usually people forget that part of the productivity is also rest which is actually managing your internal battery, which is emotional battery, physical battery. And so you can now use your chat. And please write down if you were a phone. Okay phone has a battery that you can now see how how much battery you have left. And then if you were a phone and you had a battery, how much better you would you have right now in person like, I don't know, maybe you're 50, maybe you're 17, maybe you're 100? Just. Alright, so we have "65" and" 96", and "three", "minus 50". So the average from the course, I think right now from 1000 students is, guess what 55%. And this is no different in COVID times than any else. I run the course for the last 3-4 past years and COVID is no different - 55% What would you do if your phone had 55% of battery left, and you had a busy day in front of you probably the first thing you would do is to charge it. And so this is something that people usually forget that the rest is long term productivity, you can do more today, if you cut your sleep, for example, but then you'll end up being sick anyway. So you give this time back anyway. So this is the type number two, and then we have relationships. This is also, it requires time, and it's managed completely different from goals. And sometimes people try to manage their relationships the same way that they like, there's another goal to achieve, which other people usually hate. And this is where most of the people move, okay, so I have goals to achieve, I manage them relationships, I have some rest just to have some energy left for for stuff. But then there is also creative time. And creative time, it's a time that you do something and you don't really know where you're going. For me this is music. And many other activities, which sometimes you have something to learn. And then there's like a goal to achieve, okay, I try to learn a song. But then in creative time, you just don't know where you're going. You're just experimenting. And this is actually something one of the things that prevent burnout a lot. Which means if you can experiment with things, and have this creative time, this is what actually where we spend most of our time when we were kids. And if you have kids and you ask them what they're building, sometimes they think it's an absurd question. Because we adults usually think in goals. Okay, what are you building; the castle, the car, whatever. And, and kids usually play in creative time, I" don't know yet. I'm just building and I will work it out". So this is the concept that I try to always share. And this is like a background level to think about productivity as as balance of these four times. So even now you can do a simple exercise and rate each type of this time from on scale from zero to 10. Which zero would be like I'm, it's not, it's really bad and 10 like perfect. And then you immediately see if you have balance or where you need to move. So that would be point number one. And the statistics from 2018 from Poland is that 44% of people wake up tired. Okay, how can we be productive when you wake up tired. And actually, this is like almost half of the society. My creative time is music. I'm a part time musician. This is how I also I have some rest. I one of the adventures I had even this year was playing in front of Leszek Możdżer it was actually one of the most famous Polish jazz players or piano players. And then also this is a physical activity. And this is something that people usually forget about that productivity is not about trying to squeeze your day into maximum, because productivity can also be longer term. And for that you need also rest, creative time and relationships.

So deep needs that we touched. There are five needs that are so deeply rooted in our brains that they cause big emotions. And so let's name them and move on. Because in when, when COVID hit first time, this is how I felt I felt close at home. I couldn't go to forest. I couldn't meet with people. I could I had to stop my sport activities because there was in usually in partnership, and so I was closed at home. And I was starting to feel really down. And so let's see this five needs. The first is status. So how am I compared to others. So status can be with the watch you wear or the car you drive, or that I have 'Sr' in front of my title at work, the status can mean different things. It's usually how I compare myself with others. That's number one. And then we have certainty. If my brain thinks like, the world is stable, and I can predict what's going to happen, that certainty, and then we have autonomy. Kids know it well, because they don't want to wear some specific clothes sometimes. And they argue with you, it's not about the clothes themselves. It's even this small people fight for their autonomy, they want to stand up for what they think is right for them. And this is, this is one of the need that people really can fight for. And then we have relatedness, like relationships, and then fairness. And so what happened, and the fairness you also know really well, because when you think something is not fair, we love this movies about a guy that alone fights with the injustice, and wins,, and we can watch these movies like over again. So let's look what happened in recent months. If you think about these five needs, three of them were smashed, and one of them could be disturbed like status, some people lost their jobs, some people had to downgrade their positions, some client left. And so this could be harmed pretty bad. with certainty, we actually don't know what's going to happen. Okay, if if we have one year plan, it's probably somewhere in the trash right now. The same with autonomy, sometimes we cannot fly where we want, we can sometimes go to the shop we want, we don't, we cannot meet specific people. So autonomy is much more limited. And the same with relationships, because some of them had to be moved into online space. And especially people that take their energy from other people know that this hit was really bad. And so this is also one of the I think, leaders, responsibilities, and maybe something that we need to take extra care right now is that we don't know the future. But the thing we have to work on is at least some point, some part of certainty for the team, and work on relationships as much as we can, even with conferences like this one, and autonomy. So people move usually homes, and they actually enjoy some part of autonomy, that they can manage their time a little bit more.

But then also they need tools. So this is like an emotional background to do the next tools. So now let's talk about this. This actually, the foundation that I think was one of the most useful things is that actually, you can manage your time on four levels. And one of the levels is actually days and weeks. This is a very operational level. This is where you have your tasks, and calendars and notes and meetings and everything is is here. Like what happens, even this conference is in my calendar. So I had a task to prepare a presentation. And so this is very operational level. And when usually when people think productivity, this is the level they want to manage, we have a lot of tools available out there. But that's not the only one because then we have projects and areas. What do I mean; that sometimes, every few days, usually we have weekly calls in, in companies getting things done suggests having weekly review. And this is when you look at your project, maybe a little bit from the top and then see, are we going the right direction. What's the progress, are we making good progress, this is what we expected. And so our days are really busy with tasks and meetings. But then we have projects and we have so on a basic level days and weeks. Usually you have task lists, you have calendar, you have notes, you have something that prevents you from being distracted, you have communicators and so on. On a project level or areas level usually have some project management tool, or maybe a separate list of projects you're involved, We have OKRs, SMART goals and so on. And so one of the big problems that usually people have is that they mix this, these layers. What I mean is sometimes we are moving into project space and talking about project progress and then we suddenly switch into tasks. And then we have this split brain that we're not really sure on which level we're operating. And it's even worse when we get to strategy. And strategy means what I'm going to be involved in, and what not. And in times like this, it's really hard to have a strategy. But usually you have it is just shorter term, it can be for three months, it can be for six months, it can be for a year or two. Some family decided to move. So this is a strategy, it usually groups, some projects. And also then you say, this is these are projects that we know we're going to be involved in for the next few months. For example, my strategy till the end of the year is actually to resign from most of the classroom trainings. Because this is too complex to organise, and I, I moved completely into an online space for for a few months, and then I had to run a project of building a studio at home, and so on. So this, so this is kind of strategy and you can have your personal strategy, your team can have a strategy or your whole company can have a strategy. And then this is the four levels of big picture. And so managers usually are in the worst position in the company from all the positions that are available, because we are pushed from the bottom, from our direct reports. And usually they are interested in in this operational level. "Okay, what do we do?" And then what what are the next steps and this is very operational level is something that they are interested in while then we go to a meeting with some higher management or C-level stuff. And then what do you usually talk about is strategy in big picture. And so we are like squeezed between these layers. And then I think one of the biggest advantages that we can have is to freely move between these layers. And know which layer are we talking about right now, because usually teams and direct reports are, are interested in this very operational level. While the upper management usually is not interested in that, but it's much more interested in big picture and strategy. And so, when we go to operational level, this is there's a number of tools for managing your tasks, then for your calendar for your notes, and for managing your focus and distractions. And we could talk about it for hours, but this is probably not, And probably you use one of these tools anyway, or few of them, but this is not what this presentation is about. This is actually where most of the people are interested on an operational level. But then sometimes we need to talk about "where's our project?" Or "what's our strategy?", or "what's the big picture?". And one of the big problems I see is when we start mixing strategy, with tasks, with project; people don't get it. And it's pretty consistent in our head. But usually people don't understand it. And so this is also a part of naming that we need to establish. And I found it very useful for people to focus on the tasks like every day, in every minute, we have a very clear tools and how to use them. But then let's say once every week, we check the status of every project and every area of our life. "Is it still stable?" once every few weeks, few months? We think about strategy for the next time. And then sometimes every maybe a few months, we think is our life heading where we want is it is our company the way we wanted, we founded it. So this four level and the most important tool for us in all these complex times is this question, what are the three most important things. I find it so strange that if you go to your team, and ask them this question, okay, what do you think? What are the three most important things that we as a team want to achieve by the end of the year? If you're a manager or a leader, you may ask this question to your team on Monday. Please write down the three things you think are the most important by the end of the year. So for the next three months, and you will be surprised how it differs from what you think is the most important and when in complex times we need simple tools this one of the simplest tools available, which usually brings the clarity we need and how team can perform well, especially in such trouble and times when we can't even agree what are the three most important things for the next three months. And then just a moment of retrospective and how you could use it for improving your future and avoid burnout and I love this concept from Stephen Covey and many people use it in practice.

So Even now you can ask yourself a question look back for the last a week or a month. And actually COVID provided us with many opportunities, because it shaken our world. And with this, we have many more data points or observations that we can reflect on. So the first question I would ask you, and maybe myself for the last week or month, is, if you find any moment of passion, I mean, when your emotions were aroused, you did something and you get lost track of time. You felt really encouraged by doing this? Is there anything that happened over the last week, or a month or maybe six months that you think is there and has this passion component? And then another question is, do you find any moment that you saw your talent at work? And what is talent, talent is your special ability, sometimes you learn faster, sometimes you just get it, other people just don't get it, and you get it. So this is the moment that you see your talent at work, because you can learn faster you you get this details that somebody else doesn't see. And you of course, can have passion without talent, and you can have talent without passion, that's still possible. But then this most important question is, how do you produce value for others? Because people don't care about my talent or my passion. What you care during this presentation is how much value I can give to you. And so actually, this is, this is also a story how step by step, my company was founded. Because I was a software developer, I had a passion for that I had some talent for that. And it provided value for my company, then that then Kobe suggests this fourth, fourth layer or fourth dimension, which is conscious of the big picture. Was I born to do that? And I answered No. And so with small retrospectives, like week, after week, or month, after month, you and I and everyone can move. So to put these four spheres together. So that will be that's one of the tools to prevent burnout is how do I provide value to you during this conference, and during this presentation, using my talents, so that I really can be the best in something and then using some passion that's in me. And so I can work maybe extra hours or with extra energy or without pushing myself too much. So this is one of the great tools that I found and very simple framework for retrospectives. And then everything I mentioned today, is based on habits. So how you can make it a part of your day without spending too much energy. And so just few hints for building habits, because you know how hard it is to build habits like sport. And then imagine how hard it is to build some habit like 'retrospective' or 'planning your day' or 'managing your tasks'. And so the important thing to mention is that the basic layer in our brain, if you cut it, is emotions, and that means we have to talk about our emotions. This is why I mentioned this, this five basic needs because if they are not met, then it's really hard to work on habits because we are emotionally aroused. And you know it when you woke up late. And sometimes you may even forget to brush your teeth or run a normal routine just because emotionally you are aroused. And then if we're good with that, we're good to build habits and how to do that. First thing I saw is people start big. And my recommendation would be start small. If you want to do push ups in the morning, start with five, not 20 or 15. Start with five because what counts is repetition. And when you repeat five push ups every morning, or you repeat five minute planning every day, this is what really makes sense. Because then you can upgrade it, you can add one pushup every day or you can add some small steps to your planning routine. And eventually, with push ups over a period of a year you have 50 of them. But you build it gradually your body got used to it and your routine get used to it. So if you ever struggle with habits, start small, and then add some fun. Many people try to do things that that are not fun anyhow, and just add the spice of that to to your activities. It makes it much more interesting to your brain. The third thing is a partner or a group. Even on a conference like this, you can find a partner if you want to build a habit. Just find a group that you think will work on that with you. And the fourth thing is especially common in Poland, instead of guilt and shame, we need reflection. Because normally what happens is like we push ourselves. And then there's this guilt and shame and we stop and "Okay, I'm so bad." What do we need is reflection, like what happened, what was the day that I skipped this why I did that maybe I stopped liking this exercises or maybe this planning got too heavy or too long. And also observe your team and how they plan their work and just reflection instead of guilt and shame. And one of the stories for the end is Michael Phelps 2008. he is running for gold medal, in swimming, and when he jumps into the pool, he finds out that he can't see anything because water got through his googles, and he can't see anything. And that will be the end normally. But he keeps swimming and he keeps making turns. And then finally, at the end, he doesn't even know what position he is in. And then he jumps out of the pool, seeing nothing, he takes his arm out of his head. And this is actually one of the pictures that you can find on the internet. And he breaks the world record and wins the gold medal, how he's done it. When he was exercising, his bosses, I'm missing a word, his trainers sometimes turn off the light for him. And so he had to build a habit and his perception of where he is. And this is this is the power of repetition that I really encourage you to do, no matter how hard it is just repeat and your brain will just take it. And so three books for the end for recommended 'atomic habits', one of the best books on how to build things that last in small steps. 'Essentialism' especially in turbulant and complex times like this, we need to work on the essence. And then 'your brain at work', which is four explains a lot of mechanisms in your brain that work and how to cooperate with your brain that fight with it. So what you can do after this presentation, first is look at your five ScARF needs. So status certainty, autonomy, relatedness, fairness, is there any of them that need to be taken care about? Then what's your plan on four levels? So what's How do you plan your day and week? What projects you're involved in? Maybe list them on a sheet of paper or in any app? What's your strategy? How, what's your bigger picture? This needs some reflection, but the same thing for your team? What's the task for your team? What projects are involved in? What's the strategy for your team? Do they know it? Then you can do retrospective with four spheres and maybe make a plan for building some small habit. So I'm open for questions. I think we have like five minutes left, I hope so. If you want to find me most of what I do is in Polish. So when invited to my newsletter, which is least productive and EPL vlog, which I will be restarting very soon. There's this English course on Udemy. Which is just like 1 hour 45 video. And there's this habit formation course in Polish, which actually starts next Monday, so in two days, and the next one will be March next year. So if you join, I'll be talking about it probably on the conference next year based on the observations. So thank you, that was four types of time, achieving your goals, but also rest, relationships and creative time, deep needs and how they need to be taken care, four levels and and why we shouldn't mix them. And then these four spheres that you can use even today to in 15 minutes to ask yourself questions about passion, talent, value and conscious and then some practical hints about habits. And so now i'm open for questions, comments or whatever's coming.

Okay. Yes, the book recommendations. Yes, please.

Any other questions?

Thanks so much.

I actually have a few questions if that's okay. Okay, so I really struggle with the building habits thing. And I noticed that when I go to the gym, I watched the TEDx talk on tiny habits. When you start by doing something small every day you do one pushup, and then you get better over time, but I noticed that when I stopped doing the push ups, it's even harder to start again. I really struggle with this thing of building habits. I don't like there's another technique or something that I know you said adding fun to it. And I saw a comment where Elena said I like the fun part. Yes, everybody loves the fun part. But Sometimes we need the hard work, like you said, in order to get things done. So it's really hard to juggle that hard part with the phone as well.

So for habits like this, I usually start with a goal because while you're going to a gym, what's the goal? Like you want to be fit? You want to I don't know, if you want to be fit, then why gym? Is gym the right choice? Maybe you need some, I don't know, I do acro yoga, which is not gym, but requires a lot of strength and also being really flexible. Maybe gym is not right for you. Maybe I would try to find an experiment creatively with some other activities that will give you what you need. But we'll have more of this component of group. Have fun. And it's easy to restart, let's say because always you I dunno. You get sick, There are Christmas and other breaks, you go for vacations. And so the real question is, how do we restart after the break? Because breaks will happen. For sure. We just need to prepare for that. But when I would work on a plan like this with you, my first question would be okay, so what's the end goal with gym? Because gym has got a strategy to achieve some goal. So what's the goal? And then let's look for the past what worked what was the best and maybe find an experiment with something that may be better for now? would be? That would be number one. Then number two is are you alone on the gym? Do you have a group? Do you have the support? If yes, that's that's usually much easier. And then when you think about gym, is a lot of, Is it a little bit of fun anyway. This component may be missing because what do we need is built hobbies, not habits, maybe, maybe when you exchange the word, like would be would going for gym would be your hobby, would you call it that way. I would definitely exchange building habits, which seems like a lot of work into building hobbies. If we only can do that, because every time you push a lot of energy into something, you put your pressure and it works beautifully one time and second time but it won't work a longer time. That's just, that's how it works.

About the talk

This talk will cover key aspects of effectively managing yourself and your team, some of the biggest problems in everyday productivity, and provide tips on how to not feel overworked and burned out. You should leave with an understanding of how to implement good habits and permanent changes in life.

About Piotr Nabielec

Piotr helps people organize chaos, stop procrastinating and find the time for hobby and dreams. For the last 4 years, he leads with online and offline courses, webinars and a blog. Before that he spent 10 years as a software developer and manager in IT.

He loves practical hints and solutions and is a fan of the Slow movement. TEDx speaker. As a hobby, he plays drums and guitar, travel and does various kinds of sports.

Photo of Piotr Nabielec

Piotr Nabielec

You Got This is a network of community conferences focused on core, non-technical skills coordinated by Kevin Lewis.